We’ve seen Simone Biles as a leader for gymnasts, the Olympics, and other athletes for years. Yesterday, she showed us Ms. Biles is also a leader for mental health.
The best leaders are those who believe in something strongly enough they are willing to sacrifice to make it happen. For this reason, many of the greatest leaders are accidental leaders. These individuals did not set out to become leaders. Instead, they invest themselves wholly into the mission and we see them as leaders through their efforts. These are servant-leaders.
USA Gymnastics has a history of physical and psychological abuse – not to mention failures of leadership. Many experts credit recent improvements at least partially to Ms. Biles outspoken nature and push for improvement. The world she grew up in was fraught with problems and she’s worked to make it better for those who follow in her footsteps.
Now, on the largest stage, in the brightest spotlights, at the peak of her career, Simone threw the biggest punch against one of the greatest evils performers on any stage face: attacks on their mental health. Facing a mental health challenge that put her at physical risk, she had a choice to make. Ms. Biles could bottle it up and perform or she could come out, be honest with the world, lead by example, and step off the stage. One thing is certain: she knew stepping away would mean even more attacks on her mental health.
She knew citing mental health concerns would line up countless critics to attack her. She did it anyway. She knew stepping back at this time would give critics fuel for their fire. She did it anyway. She knew her decision meant more pain for her but could set an example that protected those who followed in her footsteps. So she did it anyway.
Thank you, Simone Biles, for being a great leader. Thank you for your sacrifice and thank you for serving.
If you or someone you know needs help, in the United States, you can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). You can also find more great mental health resources at MentalHealth.gov.
Thank you and remember – keep serving!